TEMPEST, Sir Thomas (c.1476-1543/44), of Holmside, co. Dur.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1476, yr. s. of Robert Tempest of Holmside by Anne, da. of Thomas Lambton of Lambton. educ. Clare, Camb. BA 1493, fellow 1494; L. Inn, adm. 1496. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir William Brough of East Hauxwell, Yorks., 1da.; (2) 1530, Anne, da. of Thomas Lenthall of Latchford, Oxon. Kntd. 25 Sept. 1523.2

Offices Held

Butler, L. inn 1506-7, pens. 1507-8, marshal 1512, Autumn reader 1513, Lent 1517, gov. 1517-18, bencher 1519-20.

J.p. bpric. Dur. 1507-23, Yorks. (N. Riding) 1511-?d., (E. Riding) 1525-?d., (W. Riding) 1525-?d., Northumb. 1525-37, Cumb. 1525-42, Westmld. 1525-37, Yorks. 1530, ?Lincs. (Holland) 1537-?d.; steward, bpric. Dur. 1510-d., comptroller by 1522; commr. musters, Yorks. 1511, (N. Riding) 1511, 1512; other commissions in northern counties 1509-d.; under marshal, Tournai 1515; recorder, Newcastle by 1517-36 or later; steward, manor of Northallerton, Yorks. by 1523; member, council of Duke of Richmond and comptroller of household 1525-36; esquire of the body 1526; member, council in the north 1530-d.; ?sheriff, Yorks. 1542-3.3


A cadet branch of the Tempests of Bracewell had been settled at Holmside since Sir Robert Umfraville, himself one of the cadet line of a great house, chose as his heir the Tempest husband of one of his four great-nieces. Thomas Tempest, who must be distinguished from several kinsmen and namesakes both in the palatinate and at Bracewell, was in his own words ‘born to no lands and of mean substance’, but his education at a university and an inn of court was to prove a sufficient endowment. Although he never reached the summit of his profession—there seems to be no evidence of his having become, as has been claimed, a serjeant—he was in middle life a leading figure at Lincoln’s Inn and a rising administrator in the bishopric of Durham. As befitted a northern gentleman he also saw some military service, and during his time at Tournai he earned the respect of the lieutenant, Lord Mountjoy, who offered unsuccessful resistance to Wolsey’s demand for his replacement by one of the cardinal’s own men. He also made his way at court and in 1517 assisted at the banquet held at Greenwich for the French Queen and the imperial ambassador.4

From 1517 Tempest devoted himself almost wholly to affairs in the north. References to him as recorder of Newcastle in 1517 and 1536 show that he held the office throughout the intervening years: his connexion with Holmside gave him a residence close to the town. Of his military experiences he was to tell Cromwell in 1537 that he had served the King since the beginning of his reign in all his notable wars in the north, always with upwards of 100 persons without wages. In 1522 he was praised for his diligence in mustering the bishopric’s forces to meet the Scots, and when in 1523 the Earl of Surrey reported to Wolsey that the burning of Jedburgh had been entrusted to two sure men, Sir William Bulmer and Thomas Tempest, the earl claimed that ‘no journey made into Scotland in no man’s day living with so few a number is recounted to be so high an enterprise as this both with those countrymen and Scottish men’. The raid earned Tempest his knighthood, and six years later the two comrades-in-arms made a marital alliance by matching his only child with Bulmer’s grandson.5

Tempest’s growing stature in the north was reflected in his inclusion from 1525 in commissions of the peace for four northern counties: he also progressed at court, being made an esquire of the body, and he is found in association with leading private households. In 1526 his kinsman Thomas Lord Darcy paid him fees probably for legal services, and he may have counselled Darcy’s stepson the 4th Earl of Westmorland: his second wife, whom he married in 1530, was described in the licence as of Brancepeth, the earl’s seat, and in 1538 he was involved in land transactions between the crown, the earl and Sir Christopher Danby. Chosen a member of the newly formed Duke of Richmond’s council, he was active in its judicial work as well as being comptroller of the duke’s household. When the council’s authority in the marches failed he was one of the three councillors sent to aid the new warden, the 4th Earl of Northumberland, in the government of the borders. In 1528 he was a commissioner to negotiate a treaty of peace with Scotland.6

As the town’s recorder, and a man who enjoyed the confidence of the crown, Tempest was a natural choice to sit for Newcastle in the Parliament of 1529. (He may well have sat six years earlier, the names of the Newcastle Members on that occasion being unknown.) He presumably played a part in securing the passage during the first session of the Act (21 Hen. VIII, c. 18) which confirmed the town’s monopoly in the loading and unloading of goods in the area of the Tyne; the measure was partially directed against the bishop’s rights and may have been occasioned by the vacancy in the see following its surrender by Wolsey. The only other hint of Tempest’s role in the House during this Parliament is the inclusion of his name in a list drawn up by Cromwell on the back of a letter of December 1534 and thought to be of Members with a particular, but unspecified, connexion with the treasons bill then on its passage through the Commons. In the intervals of his attendance in Parliament he remained active in the north, serving on a number of commissions, including the inquiry into Wolsey’s goods in the bishopric and those into tenths of spiritualities in the palatinate, Cumberland and Northumberland. While engaged on the last of these he corresponded with Cromwell and his request to the minister for a commission to investigate two chantry priests who were failing in their duties may reflect a solicitude for the state of such foundations. It was presumably he and not his kinsman Sir Richard Tempest whose name appears, as ‘Mr. Tempest’, with three others on the dorse of an Act for continuing expiring laws passed during the Parliament of 1536. To this Parliament he had doubtless been returned again for Newcastle in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members: he may also have sat in one or both of the Parliaments of 1539 and 1542, for which the names of the Newcastle Members are unknown.7

Tempest’s career was jeopardised by his conduct during the Pilgrimage of Grace. He appears, after only a slight show of resistance, to have placed himself with Sir William Eure and Robert Bowes at the head of the revolt in Durham. He accordingly attended the council of the Pilgrims held at York late in November 1536, but he was not present at the meeting of its representatives with the King at Doncaster because he had caught a cold: the disability may have been genuine for he seems to have suffered from persistent ill-health. He transmitted some opinions on the rebel cause to its leader Robert Aske through his friend Robert Bowes: what they were is not known, although Aske said later that they were in favour of the reformation of certain statutes by Parliament and of the keeping of good order at Doncaster. There is little to be said for the suggestion that he was the author of an anonymous paper bitterly attacking Cromwell and Parliament.8

Tempest’s survival of the crisis probably owed much to the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. At the time of the Doncaster meeting he was said to have been of old ‘much acquainted’ with Norfolk and in February 1537 he hailed the duke’s arrival in the north as a ‘great comfort to all good subjects’. He was appointed to Norfolk’s advisory council, attended him throughout his northern progress and was made much use of in the reordering of the north. In March he was busy with the trial of offenders at Durham, but in the following month he and Robert Bowes were charged with conducting certain prisoners to London for trial, including Sir John Bulmer, his daughter’s father-in-law. With the Percy estates in the hands of the crown, he was given custody of the sons of the attainted Sir Thomas Percy. Norfolk described Tempest in a letter to Cromwell as ‘at more charge than his fee will bear’; Tempest himself took up the theme in his correspondence with the minister, but he also lent his support to the duke’s plea to be released from the northern assignment and when he was at court in 1537 he explained his patron’s position. Before leaving the north the duke had Tempest brought onto the reconstituted council in the north; he was to remain an active member, particularly with respect to the border, until just before his death. It is not clear whether Tempest was sheriff of Yorkshire in 1542-3: he had the necessary qualifications of property and standing but he was ageing and in poor health, so that the man chosen may have been his younger namesake of Bracewell.9

His complaints of financial stringency notwithstanding, Tempest was a man of some substance. The extent of his property in Durham is not known, but he may have succeeded to Holmside when his father and elder brother died of plague in 1522. His property in Yorkshire came through his wife and her sister, a widow who in 1518 vested her patrimony in trustees for the benefit of Tempest and his wife. Tempest died between 11 Aug. 1543, when he was said to be permanently ill, and September 1544 when the writ was issued for an inquisition post mortem. No will has been discovered. His heir was his daughter Anne, the wife of Sir Ralph Bulmer.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. House of Lords RO, Original Acts 28 Hen. VIII, no. 6.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Surtees, Durham, ii. 324-5.
  • 3. Hutchinson, Durham, i. 384, 389, 401, 408-9, 443-4; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, viii, xi-xvii; J. Brand, Newcastle, ii. 215; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 103-4, 113, 150; Tudor R. Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 144.
  • 4. Surtees, ii. 324-5; Burke, LG, ii. 1372; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xiv. 56-57; LP Hen. VIII,, ii, xii; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. passim; Reid, 103; C. G. Cruickshank, English Occupation of Tournai, 93-94.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iii. xii; NRA 3811, p. 57.
  • 6. R. Welford, Newcastle and Gateshead, ii. 88; A. R. Laws, Schola Novocastrensis, i. 25-27; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiii; Reid, 103-4 et passim, 138; Reg. Bp. Tunstall (Surtees Soc. clxi), 33.
  • 7. J. R. Nef. Rise of Coal Industry, i. 140 et passim; LP Hen. VIII, iv. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; viii; House of Lords RO, Original Acts 28 Hen. VIII, no. 6.
  • 8. Reid, 137; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xii; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 357-8, 366, 368, 373.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xi-xvi, xviii; Merriman, Letters, Thos. Cromwell, ii. 100; Northumb. Co. Hist. iii, 228-30.
  • 10. LP Hen. VIII, iii, xii, xvii; E150/241/11; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 412.